Three people have died after two vehicles crashed into an area where the road appears to have washed away near Neillsville during heavy rains Wednesday night.
According to a news release, Thomas Jurceka, 56, and Susan Jurceka, 57, both of Milwaukee died when their vehicle drove into a washed out portion of Highway M near County Road I. A second vehicle driven by Mary Malinowki, 24, of Thorp also died when she crashed into the same area.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Department received a 911 call around 1:30 a.m. reporting two vehicles were located in the wash out. All three victims were pronounced dead at the scene.
Chief Deputy Jim Backus was the first to arrive at the scene.
"It was just a helpless feeling seeing the water, the road still collapsing, just a helpless feeling not being able to do anything," he said.
Backus says it became clear the situation had turned from rescue to recovery.
It is unknown what caused the road to wash away. According to a press release, three inches of rain fell in a short period of time. The wash out was approximately 50 feet wide and about 12-15 feet deep.
Clark County Emergency Management Director Michelle Hartness says what's unusual is that there are nearby places where they've established high impact areas for flooding, but where the road washed out is not one of them.
"This is not one of our high impact areas so we were all pretty shocked by this," Hartness said. "We've never had any problem, even with the flooding of 2010."
The Clark County Highway Department is determining how to replace the eight foot metal culvert, and then rebuild the road.
These are the first traffic fatalities this year in Clark County.